The best bars in Central
Long overlooked as a drinking destination – not a surprise when your bar is part of the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to have three Michelin stars – 8½ is finally getting credit for its drinks as well as its food. In large part that’s thanks to the excellent Devender Kumar, bar manager and a Barcardi Legacy winner, whose signatures, The Optimist and Pocket Square, threaten to overshadow the food.
Established by legendary Japanese bartender Hidetsugu Ueno, Bar De Luxe is no cheap imitation of his world famous Tokyo cocktail bar, Bar High Five. Helmed by the Ueno’s protégé, Yuriko Naganuma, this is upscale drinking at its finest.
Those looking for more adventurous drinks than just another martini or old fashioned should head here. Expect drinks with ingredients like Iron Buddha tea, coffee-infused bourbon or orange marmalade. Oh, and don’t forget to try the smores.
Mezcal is suddenly a thing in Hong Kong and Coa is the agave spirit’s best evangelisers. The space is pleasant, supposedly reminiscent of your average bar in southern Mexico, but it’s the extensive mezcal and tequila menu where the bar shines. Home to the most extensive and in-depth collection in the city, there’s simply no better place to head if you fancy sipping a shot or a cocktail based on either spirit.
An establishment from the team behind Mrs Pound and Foxglove, Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour is home to – who’d have thought – an impressive collection of more than 250 premium gins. A great place for a casual tipple in the plush surrounds of the Landmark, staff also shake up an array of imaginative libations and are happy to accommodate specific requests from more discerning customers.
Better known for its Michelin-starred cuisine, Duddell’s ‘Salon’ bar happens to serve drinks well worth taking a break from your char siu bao for. The drinks menu recently underwent a significant revamp and is now full of winners thanks to the efforts of bar manager Masumi Tomioka and JIA Group’s beverage specialist James Barker. Almost everything is worth trying once.
From the team who behind cooler-than-thou restaurant Mrs Pound comes Foxglove, a 1950s-style watering hole serving up classic cocktails on Duddell Street hidden behind the exterior of an umbrella shop. If the drinks and live music in the main room aren’t quality enough for you, there’s always the exclusive Frank’s Library bar (hidden inside Foxglove) to try too.
If the many super serious cocktail bars littering Central feel too crusty, Honi Honi is here to help. Specialising in tiki drinks, this Wellington Street hangout is a Polynesian beach bar getaway in the heart of the city.
Tucked away on the ninth floor of The Loop building on Wellington Street, I Know John is a hidden gem serving up craft cocktails, gourmet hotdogs and niche wines and whiskies.
Inspired by Prohibition era drinks, Lily is a hypnotically welcoming bar focusing on old-school favourite cocktails and modern classics made with boutique spirits and always with consummate care.
The Japanese bar-inspired Nocturne is home to fantastic whiskies and wines, with skilled bartenders remaking classic cocktails with surgical care and precision. Think Ginza in Central.
Launched by a trio of Hong Kong’s finest local talent, The Old Man is an establishment that’s prepared to do things its own way rather than rely on imported ideas or talent. Tucked away down an alley on Aberdeen Street, this shining example to other local bars is routinely packed as it mixes innovative drinks with appreciably attentive service.
Origin’s focus on gin is no cheap gimmick. Using impressive gadgetry and techniques, Origin prepares infused gins in-house before blending them into incredible drinks.
PDT’s official opening in Hong Kong in early 2018 may not have generated quite the same buzz as when the bar popped up in the Landmark MO two years prior, but the cocktails are still of exceptional quality. As exciting as the drinks, the bar snacks, created by Richard Ekkebus, culinary director of Michelin-starred Amber, are also top drawer.
A raucous take on an American dive bar, skip the so-so house cocktails and order up a classic to your preferred specification to learn why The Ponty is rated among Asia’s 50 Best Bars.
Decked out like an immaculate factory, with concrete-floors, filament lighting and meshed gates, Quinary serves up some of the pricier cocktails in town. However, it’s a cocktail bar with substance worth every cent.
Antonio Lai’s newest venture is a narrow sliver of a bar. The establishment’s key concept is ‘imagination’ – hence the Crystal Old Fashioned, a specially distilled concoction that’s transparent. The signature menu is written on a see-through sheet of plastic that appears invisible when the menu is first opened – another embodiment of the ephemeral atmosphere Room 309 successfully creates.
It’s a common complaint that PMQ is used for all the wrong things. Sake Central is another odd fit in the arts/shopping/entertainment venue – but what an odd fit. Offering the best selection of sake in the city, there’s no better place to indulge your taste for the Japanese tipple or to start learning about it. The accompanying ‘otsumami’ small bites are divine, too.
Stockton may only have opened in 2014 but it feels like it’s been around forever, such an institution has the Wyndham Street haunt become in its short existence. Top draw cocktails and a tremendously atmospheric space are the reasons why.
The Wise King is an excellent independent venture set up by industry veterans Joe Villanueva (formerly of Lobster Bar) and Sandeep Kumar (a two-time Bacardi Grand Prix National Champion). As well as tapas offerings, expect creative cocktails in the cosy lounge venue. Highlights include the likes of The Monti-Tipple ($108) – a mix of Xeco Amontillado sherry, Gin Mare, Café Vermouth and aromatic choco bitters.
With a menu bursting with specialist liquors, house-cured ingredients, infusions and hybrids of all kinds, The Woods has justifiably earned a reputation for hardcore, experimental mixology.
The full low-down on the best drinks in the city and where to find them